Diasporans petition SADC on voting rights

A group of Zimbabweans living abroad, known as the Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Initiative, has petitioned SADC in a bid to push the Zimbabwean government to allow diaspora voting rights.  

The organisation claims that, in contrast to other SADC nations, the Zimbabwean government forbids Zimbabweans living overseas from casting ballots in the country’s key elections.

The Zimbabwean government has long maintained that voting takes place at polling places, therefore voters must cast their ballots in the constituencies where they are registered.      

“We are a group of Zimbabweans living outside Zimbabwe and need to vote during Zimbabwe’s elections like our colleagues from some SADC Countries we live in the diaspora with. Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa have their citizens living abroad voting in national elections, and Tanzania and Zambia are working towards putting in place mechanisms to allow their citizens living in the diaspora to vote,” read part of a letter from Rosewiter Mangiroza, the chair of the Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Initiative.

Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa declared in September 2018 that he would seek to put in place procedures that would allow a diaspora vote.

This announcement served as the foundation for the Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Initiative’s petition.

The group also claimed it wrote to President Mnangagwa on April 15, 2022, reminding him of his 2018 commitment, and included the following link in the letter:, which was his address to Zimbabweans in New York.

They did not, however, receive a reply.

Following their letter to the President, media reports appeared that disputed his promise to carry out the diaspora vote.

“Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi told Parliament there would be no diaspora vote,” noted Mangiroza, adding that Zanu PF’s political commissar, Patrick Chinamasa, said a vote in the diaspora would not happen until sanctions against Zimbabwe were lifted.

“It should be noted that it is not the Zimbabweans living in the diaspora who have caused sanctions to be imposed on Zimbabwe, so sanctions should not be used as an excuse to deny us our right to vote.”

On September 8, 2022, the group petitioned Zimbabwe’s parliament for legislative and constitutional revisions to allow those living abroad to cast ballots.

Again, this petition has not received a response.

“On 26 September 2022, we petitioned President Mnangagwa in accordance with Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which grants citizens of Zimbabwe the freedom to demonstrate and to petition authorities peacefully. Our petition was marked to the attention of Dr Misheck Sibanda, Secretary to the President and Cabinet. There has been no acknowledgement of receipt of that petition,” Mangiroza added.

Mangiroza claimed in the letter that inconsistencies coming from some members of the ruling party point to an ongoing, deliberate campaign to abridge the voting rights of Zimbabweans living overseas.

“Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has said the diaspora cannot vote because the constitution does not allow diaspora vote. But if that was the case, the Constitution has been amended by Parliament before to remove the running mate clause. We believe if there was a will, and if there was a real need to amend the constitution, it would have been amended in 2018 when the President announced his commitment to the diaspora vote,” Mangiroza said.

The organisation asserted it also ran into members of a different Zimbabwean group that had filed a nearly identical petition in May 2021, and likewise, had not obtained a favourable response.

The Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote believes it is not necessary to amend the constitution to allow the diaspora vote since Zimbabwe’s Constitution (Item 1(2) of the Fourth Schedule) states the “Electoral Act can be amended to enable polling stations to be created in the country of residency of diaspora voters. But all the same if a constitutional amendment was necessary, Parliament should have moved to make the amendment,” said Mangiroza.

The group added this matter painted Mnangagwa as lacking the executive authority to enforce the implementation of the diaspora vote after he committed to it, highlighting that the failure to at least acknowledge their correspondence to the President and to petitions to Parliament appear to be deliberate attempts to deny a diaspora vote.

Mangiroza concluded his letter by pleading with the SADC to “encourage” President Mnangagwa in using his executive authority to instruct the Ministry of Justice, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs to draft the legislation and constitutional amendments required to implement a diaspora vote as provided for in Sections 56 (1), 67(3a), and 155 (1c) of Zimbabwe’s constitution.

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